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World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
Corinthians: Rewarding the faithful
Freddy Rincon
Colombian Freddy Rincon (left): Vast experience
By Latin American football writer Tim Vickery

Behind the aristocratic name of these Brazilian giants lie humble origins.

The Corinthian Casuals' visit to Brazil in the early years of this century was so successful that a group of São Paulo factory workers were inspired to form their own club, named as a tribute to the English amateurs.


I took one look at those incredible supporters and realised I had to do something to shut them up

Pelé's attitude when he played Corinthians
Brazil's Corinthians soon showed they had the popular touch. The club's growth was so extraordinary that by the mid-1920s they were already deemed worthy of sociological study.

As São Paulo became one of the world's biggest cities, Corinthians established themselves as its best-supported club. Their fans are known as the "Fiel" - the faithful - and are among the country's most fervent.

In all his years with another Brazilian club Santos, Pelé scored more goals against Corinthians than any other team.

World Club Championship
"I took one look at those incredible supporters and realised I had to do something to shut them up, otherwise they would win the game for Corinthians," he once said.

The club has nonetheless suffered fluctuating fortunes.

Two years ago, with the team in danger of relegation, a group of the Fiel lost all faith and ambushed the Corinthians' bus on the motorway. The attack on the players left many fearing for their lives.

Corinthians key men
Coach: Oswaldo de Oliveira
Luizão, lone striker
Marcelinho Carioca, small-footed free kick specialist
Edilson, attacking midfielder with point to prove
Freddy Rincon, veteran Columbian midfielder
Vampeta, controversial Columbian
Ricardinho, left-footed man in midfield
Dida, giant keeper and penalty expert
Since then there has been no chance of a repeat. In 1998 Corinthians won the Brazilian championship in style, and they repeated the feat late in 1999.

Much of their play over the last two seasons has been a delight, full of movement, attacking intentions and tactical innovations.

Oswaldo de Oliveira, the team's studious coach, uses Luizão as a lone striker, with two tiny men running from deep providing much of the danger.

Marcelinho Carioca has two of the smallest feet in football, but, cutting across the ball to devastating effect, they make him one of the world's deadliest takers of free kicks.

Luizao
Luizao: Recent transfer from Vasco Da Gama
Meanwhile, Edilson runs with the ball with extraordinary pace and mobility. He has a point to prove after being axed from the Brazil squad for the Copa America on disciplinary grounds.

Alone among Brazilian teams, Corinthians rarely field a specialist midfield destroyer - the accent is firmly on quality passing and movement.

Veteran Colombian Freddy Rincon is playing some of the best football of his career in a deep midfield role. Alongside him is the classy Vampeta, who recently set off a storm in the macho world of Brazilian football by posing nude for a homosexual magazine.

Dida
Dida: A great shot-stopper
The midfield is completed by the left-footed Ricardinho, who has emerged from the shadows to be one of the outstanding players in this year's campaign.

With the emphasis placed on attack, it is no surprise that defence is not Corinthians' strong point.

Since the superb Paraguayan centre back Gamarra joined Atletico Madrid, the team have looked vulnerable at the back.

The giant keeper Dida is not an easy man to beat, though. A penalty saving expert, he has stopped the last four he has faced playing for the Brazilian national team.

His form will be important to a team which, for all its domestic success, has not done so well in international competitions.

Roared on by the Fiel, the World Club Championships are their big chance to put that right.

See also:

20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
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